Fighting for ruffed grouse


06/01/15

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RGS in the News

Society petitions feds over inadequate forest management

 
May 30, 2015 Article in The Mining Journal, which graciously provided permission to post the entire article below.

 

By JOHN PEPIN
Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — The Ruffed Grouse Society recently filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service for the agencies’ “consistent failure” to provide young forest habitat needed by ruffed grouse and other game and non-game wildlife species in the eastern part of the country.

The petition for rulemaking specifically concerns the U.S. Forest Service’s southern and eastern regions which encompass 33 states east of the Rocky Mountains, including Michigan and the Upper Peninsula’s Ottawa and Hiawatha national forests.

The society wants the secretary of the agriculture department and the Forest Service chief to issue immediate written directives to move promptly to achieve duly established minimum goals for early-successional forest habitats within each forest unit.

In the petition, the society said the two forest regions have continually failed to meet minimum goals for early successional forest habitats as detailed in forest plans from 2004 to 2007.

“By law, federal agencies are required to implement forest plans to develop forest resources, protect wildlife diversity and manage wildlife and wildlife habitats to enhance hunting activities,” the petition read. “The Forest Service has failed in this in regions 8 and 9 to the detriment of the law and hunters that depend on early successional habitats for game wildlife.”

Since 1987, the society has corresponded and met with the Forest Service at district, regional and national levels, to urge more action on early successional forest habitat declines, the petition stated.

“From the heart of ruffed grouse country in the Great Lakes region, to the historic covers of New England and the hills of the Appalachians, ruffed grouse and other wildlife of young forests have been poorly served by the Forest Service,” Ruffed Grouse Society President and CEO John Eichinger said in a news release.

Eichinger said the society is reluctantly taking the step of filing the petition, but has little alternative given the Forest Service’s lack of response to repeated efforts to work collaboratively.

“These deficiencies indicate a systemic problem that demands the attention of our most senior officials within the Forest Service,” Eichinger said.
The petition said aspen forests are a foundation for populations of three “extremely popular” game species in the northern Great Lakes region, including ruffed grouse, American woodcock and white-tailed deer.

“National forests in the Great Lakes region are regenerating these important aspen forest communities at rates well below goals identified in existing forest plans,” the petition stated.

The petition said from 2003-2012, the Chequamegon National Forest  in northern Wisconsin met only 28 percent of its aspen regeneration goal and from 2006-2011, the Ottawa National Forest in the western U.P. reached only 41 percent of its aspen regeneration goal and the Huron-Manistee National Forest downstate hit only 48 percent of its aspen and birch regeneration goal from 2006-2011.

“These low levels of accomplishment in regenerating aspen forest habitats are directly contributing to the loss of the early-successional forest habitats that support non-game and game wildlife and, likewise, reduce hunter opportunities on national forests throughout this region.” the petition read.

The petition details some songbird declines found in breeding bird surveys on the Hiawatha and Ottawa national forests. The species showing significant decreases included brown thrasher, field sparrow, golden-winged warbler and gray catbird on the Hiawatha forest and chestnut-sided warbler, common yellowthroat, gray catbird and yellow warbler on the Ottawa forest.

“As a general rule, we don’t talk about legal matters when they are ongoing. What I will say is we appreciate our partner’s concerns and I can assure you we are constantly striving for the best balance between resource use and resource conservation,” said Hiawatha National Forest Supervisor Jo Reyer. “Our shared goal is the long-term sustainability of the ruffed grouse and its habitat.”

Reyer said the Hiawatha National Forest appreciates its local partnership projects with the Ruffed Grouse Society over the past several years including an edge treatment to regenerate aspen and alder for food and cover for upland game birds and deer within a spruce-fir-aspen forest matrix on the St. Ignace District in 2011.

Additional partnership projects between the society and the Forest Service have included a Nahma Marsh Tag Alder Regeneration project to benefit woodcock on Rapid River/Manistique Ranger District in 2013; the Sprinkler Early Successional Habitat Maintenance project on the St. Ignace Ranger District in 2013 in which small blocks of early successional (aspen/opening) habitat were maintained to benefit woodcock and ruffed grouse; and the Rudyard Early Successional Habitat Maintenance project on St. Ignace Ranger District this year where small blocks of early successional habitat will be maintained for woodcock and ruffed grouse.

“These projects, along with an array of other Forest vegetation management projects, have supported important management goals,” Reyer said.

The Ruffed Grouse Society was formed in 1961 and has about 15,500 members in the U.S. and Canada, with 113 local chapters. The society is the only non-profit wildlife conservation organization dedicated to promoting favorable conditions for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife dependent on young forests to sustain hunting traditions and outdoor heritage.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is jpepin@miningjournal.net.
 

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Mission Statement

Established in 1961, the Ruffed Grouse Society is North America's foremost conservation organization dedicated to preserving our sporting traditions by creating healthy forest habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife. RGS works with landowners and government agencies to develop critical habitat utilizing scientific management practices.

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